Are You Playing Small?

Big fish in small fish bowl

A friend emailed me the other day and confided that after hearing so many “successful” people talk about the concept of playing small, she wondered if maybe we were. We’ve both chased big success and found that instead of finding that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, all we really did was lose ourselves.

So we have stepped back.

We are much less concerned with the size of our businesses, email lists, social media friend lists, and all of the other ways we used to measure our success. Instead we are finding what fulfills us and serves others.

Are we playing small or are we playing smart?

That’s the question my friend posed, because she honestly didn’t know anymore. She was confused.

I had to really stop and think about it myself for a moment.

Certainly, I’m not working with as many clients as I used to. I’m not making the big income I used to make. I’m not always thinking about, and doing things to grow my business like I did for so many years. Yes, I still work, but I’m enjoying the work I am doing, and life, a whole lot more. I’m happier and healthier. My life is just better. And, I am able to give the work I am doing, and the clients I do work with, much more focused attention. So I believe I’m serving my business, my clients, my family, and myself better.

Does that mean I’m now playing small?

Settling for less and withholding my gifts from the world?

I don’t think so.

Rather, I think we have to ask What is “small”?

Years ago, before I started going to personal development conferences and success seminars and hiring coaches, I never even considered that I was playing small, big, or anything in between. I was just playing my game. Living my life.

Yes, I’ve always been the type of person to live life to the fullest. To go for it. But that’s me.

Should I judge someone who is happy and satisfied with the status quo? I don’t think so.

It’s a personal choice. It’s not that big or small is right or wrong.

It’s about doing what feels right to you.

The idea of playing small was planted in my mind by the success industry.

And while it may have been meant to inspire or challenge me, in the end it did neither. Rather, it’s what led me to become spellbound, because ultimately, no matter what I did, I was always playing smaller than someone else. Which meant there was always more I had to be, do, and have.

I question the ENTIRE conversation about playing small.

I say we “play” however we want to play.

And we don’t label it big or small or anything else.

We do what we are called to do.

We stop measuring in terms of size and reach and dollars and instead we measure by the impact we have on each person we touch.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Please post a comment and share.


About Debbie

Debbie worked in marketing for 32 years and ran a successful coaching and consulting business for 19. She now teaches marketing and helps people find greater happiness and success by learning how to Follow Inspiration.

5 comments on “Are You Playing Small?

  1. Great post Debbie! I agree that it is about doing whatever it is that you do well and enjoying it. We all need balance in our lives so that they can be meaningful. At the end of the day it’s not about how much money you made but what kind of life you lived.
    Hope you are doing well!

  2. Debbie,

    I really resonate with this post.

    And I would add one more piece. To me these days, playing small has been turned on its head…it’s NOT about comparing myself to others and measuring whether or not I “should” be doing more.

    It’s about feeling for those places where you are holding yourself back from letting yourself be as joyfully big as your soul wants to be. How much do you allow yourself to enjoy your life, play, laugh, reach for friendships that serve you, are fun and feel great…and how much do you hold yourself in a place of struggling, working harder, doing what others think you should, and settling for less than what your heart truly wants?

    That, to me, is playing small. Settling for less than what your HEART wants, and releasing the comparisons.

    For me, the game in life is to clear out the hidden stuff inside that keeps you on that hamster wheel, living your life according to those comparisons instead of dancing full out to the music that is inside you.

    And you are SUCH a wonderful example of having stepped off the hamster wheel so you could turn up the volume inside, and dance. Rock on!

  3. Thank you both for sharing. As you both point out it is about doing what makes YOU happy. It’s about living a life that fills YOUR heart and enables you to balance the many aspects of your life. Yet, it’s so easy in our world today, to compare ourselves to others. And, sadly, it seems as if keeping up withe Joneses has extended into business, and every area of our lives. Labeling how big or small you are playing is definitely just another form of this comparison. It’s nice to see that some people are waking up to this and choosing not to keep playing this game!

  4. You know, what we think is small could be BIG to another person. And isnt this the PLOY?
    Are we big or small? Because we are OURSELVES????
    The ploy = tell us something to make us uncomfortable about being ourselves to spend money on THEIR product that may or may not change us = less money for us, more for the person selling the PLOY??
    I am so pleased that you are speaking up about all this, I am noticing the PLOYS more and more
    lately, and its easier to be me, whether thats small right now compared to what they think is BIG

  5. You are right Margaret… what we think is small could be BIG to another person. It’s all relative and as you state, it’s most important to be ourselves. 🙂

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